One of my favourite style guides is The Cheap Date Guide to Style. I love its attitude, that the woman maketh the clothes, not the other way round. They clearly took a book leaf or two out of Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy. Cheap Chic was originally published in 1975 and its subtitle, Hundred of money saving hints to create your own great look, lays out its premise. It's the equivalent of Vogue's More Dash than Cash pages and its message is as applicable today as it was then: 'We've become spoiled in England. Surrounded by mass manufacturing and mass marketing, we stuff our closets with masses of mistakes.'
Caterine Milinaire was a French photojournalist, former editor of Youth Fashions for Vogue, Carol Troy was a New York based journalist and this book successfully combines the French chic with the American straight talking.
Like The Cheap Date Guide to Style, they feature interview with inspirationally stylish individuals. There's some huge names in there, like Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent, but there's also Ingeborg Day, a 34 year old Manhattan office worker, apparently 'normal' people selected because of their innate style.
Milinaire and Troy go through all the basics, from the undies up, complete with some pretty firm words on the importance of keeping a firm body that I don't think would have been allowed to pass for publication today. They play around with various classic looks, from cowboy to Ivy League and tell you how to do more things with a scarf than you can possibly imagine.
It's now out-of-print but try and track down a copy: it's the perfect book to pull from your shelf when you've convinced yourself you have nothing to wear. Their key advice?
'Find the clothes that suit you best, that make you feel comfortable, confident, sexy, good looking and happy ... and then hang onto them like old friends ... Nobody knows better than you what you should wear or how you should look.'